Date: November 25, 2015
Place: Crystal Cove State Park, Laguna Beach, California
Coordinates: 33.578670, -117.849422
Length: 0.6 mile in and out from lot 2
We finished our hike at Crystal Cove State Park with time to spare before we were due down at the beach for the low tide, and the family vote was to go and have lunch before going tide pooling. That lunch ate up all of that time and a bit more, so by the time we arrived at parking lot #2 the tide was past its lowest. Still, it was pretty low when we finally made it down to the pools and we had a wonderful time wandering along the beach and enjoying its treasures.
The little walk we had to take to the restaurant also had its surprises, It started with this little towhee strutting his stuff by the parking lot.
So we grabbed our cameras and not to lose any more time, hurried down the path to the beach.
Much of the tidal zone wildlife is sessile. The rock faces were covered with mussels and other mollusks, shut tightly inside their shells until the coming tide covers them with water once more.
Later she had found a tiny-wincy baby star too. This tiny starfish was detached from its rock and tumbling in the gentle waves. My chika scooped it from the water to show me, then laid it gently in the little pond she and her sister made for the hermit crabs that they found there.
Snail shells were all over the place, but my chika found a really large one. It was vacant - apparently no hermit crab was big enough to lay claim to this beautiful house.
Hermit crabs are always fun to watch. They remain trapped in the tide pools and they keep active until the tide comes in again. While in the closed tide pool the water remains still and the sand doesn't shift with any wave. This is the time when a small crab can make its mark, leaving a trail of footprints underwater.
There was a single snowy egret in the entire tide pools area. That bird was busy fishing throughout the time we were there. Papa Quail photographed it and moved on to other, less common birds. I regarded it every now and then, seeing that it didn't mind me or other people around. Occasionally it would catch a fish and swallow it quickly. On one of these occasions a Heermann's Gull swooped over and tried to wrestle the fish from the egret. The egret wasn't ready to give up its catch and a short battle ensued. My camera was on serial photo mode and the birds were close. I photographed the whole thing.
|"Give me that fish!"|
|"Mine! Mine! Mine!"|
The sun was getting low and the air was cooling down. Papa Quail started voicing his wish to go back to the car but he was still distracted by the birds that showed no intention to leave the beach.
|Black-bellied Plover, non-breeding|
Papa Quail was more interested in the actual birds than the scenery or the beauty of the image. But he certainly appreciates the beauty of a tern in flight.
It was getting dark. The chikas were complaining loudly now that they were cold and hungry, and papa Quail started herding them toward the trail. I took a few steps in that direction and then turned and shot another series of sunset stills.
And who would blame me? Every few minutes the image would change into something even more spectacular. The clouds enhance the sunset's beauty so much.
Eventually the only people left on the beach were a couple of professional sunset photographers that came down specifically for that and had their camera mounted on a tripod. An me, retreating ever so slowly towards the trail.
The camera adjusts the capture according to the light it perceives, therefore when photographing the sun directly, everything around looks dark.
But high on the cliff (yes, I did make it up there eventually), when I photographed the coastline, the photo looks less dark although it was taken after the photos above.
It was there at the edge of the cliff that I caught the last rays of the sun as it sunk into the Pacific Ocean. (Yes, I know it doesn't really sink and it's all just a perception, but the heck with it. The sun sinks and it's right that it sinks into the ocean. No land sunset can match with that. And please ignore the outline of Santa Catalina Island, it still counts as ocean sunset :-) )
It was almost dark when we made it back to the car and I found out that I had left my water bottle at the beach where I had put my shoes back on. Horrified at the though that I(!) would leave an artifact like that in nature I grabbed a flashlight and run all the way down to retrieve it. I made it back with no time to spare - the park's gate are closed on sunset. I guess that the attendant is familiar with the practice of sunset viewing because she had waited for us to leave before closing the beach.
It was the perfect ending of a long and very rewarding day. And it was our last day before I'd have to face that big monstrosity in Anaheim that we promised we'd take the chikas to.